Monday, January 25, 2010


You’re probably reading the title and thinking Reiner is going to tell us he’s finally burned out. He’s going to call it quits and leave us alone. Well…no such luck. No, this is about player burnout. But it’s not about your hardcore tourney player spending two or three days a week at the field and unable to sustain the pace, although I’m sure that’s an issue within the tournament player community.

The burnout I’m thinking of is probably totally different than most players or even field owners think about. I see it all the time. I can often forecast it on a player’s second or third paintball outing ever. This burnout has to do with the Newbie that falls in love with the game on his first time at our field. He comes to the counter and tells us how much fun he is having; how he had no idea he was going to like paintball this much; how he’s going to do this regularly from now on.

We then see him the next weekend or maybe a couple of weeks later. Sometimes he’s already bought his own gear by the time he comes for his second ever paintball outing. He keeps coming week after week, hardly missing a weekend. Soon he’s one of the “regulars” because he is always there. The other regulars know him by name. This goes on for a few months and then we start seeing him a little less often. Instead of coming every weekend, it’s once or twice per month. Then we won’t see him at all anymore.

The way I see it, these types of players have “too much of a good thing”. The novelty wears off. As I recognize this trend, I will often warn these players that if they come too often, they’ll probably end up burning out. But they never believe it. They are infatuated with their newfound hobby.

This is why I always have to smile when I read posts from players or field owners (or potential future field owners who are going to run a field the “right” way) about how paintball should be really inexpensive for players so they can afford to do it all the time. I read it and smile because I know that most “regulars” will only be regulars for a relatively short time. Then they will move onto something else that catches their interest. But the field owner has based his business plan on attracting and keeping lots of players, and keeping them coming back regularly because at their field they can afford to play all the time.

As a field owner, I have found out and understand that I have a much healthier business if my customers come regularly, but much less often. It’s best if they pursue other interests outside of paintball, and not get too infatuated with just paintball. I have a feeling that is not the way most field owners feel about their customers. I’m sure most want to hook their new players hard and have them come back as often as possible. Sometimes, even I think I’m a bit of an odd duck, a business owner that doesn’t want his customers coming too often. How odd is that?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Function over Form? Form over Function?

We see many different types of players at TNT Paintball. The one thing they all have in common is that they come to play paintball and come to have fun. The majority of our customers rent our equipment to play, but more and more of our customers have their own equipment. I think this is a natural progression of any sport or activity that becomes more popular over time. Golf courses for instance have very few renters these days.

Those that bring their own equipment bring a wide variety. We have players bring low-end pumps, mid-range pumps, and high-end pumps. We have players bringing basic mechanical semi-autos, basic electronic semi-autos, mid-range electronic semi-autos and high-end electros. Some of these markers would have Buck Rogers in amazement (you younger folk will have to google Buck Rogers if you don’t know who I’m talking about) with their futuristic looks. Some markers are brand new but look like they may have seen active duty 50 or 60 years ago. Some are very light and some are not.

Everyone has their own idea of what is right for them. For me it’s a light, easy to maneuver pump. On the other hand, I see lots of markers that are more “realistic” looking that look like they probably weigh close to 10 pounds. Those that use them don’t seem to complain though. Then there are those that like the light, maneuverable electros that can spit out paintballs at what many think are insane rates. These are the markers tourney players use and they use them for a reason; if you know how to use it, you will have a better chance of eliminating the opposition with one.

There is constant debate on virtually every paintball forum about this marker, or that marker, and which is better, and which marker is a pile of junk. Marker reviews are always interesting. Nine times out of ten, the reviewer seems to give his marker rave reviews. I think a lot of that has to do with justifying their decision to buy it in the first place. Obviously, it’s the “type” of marker they wanted, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought it in the first place.

In the end though, is all the debating really worth the effort? Do I really care what the other guys are shooting? If a player wants to haul around a ten pound marker, set it up on bipods, calibrate his sights and play GI Joe, should I think he is silly, just because it’s not what I would do? Should I condemn a player for spending $1,000 on a high end pump, even though I would never spend that much? Should I make fun of the kid that shows up at the field with a $49 plastic paintball marker from Walmart?

Live and let live, I say. Play your game and let others play their game. Have fun and let others have fun, whatever form that may come in. As long as it’s not harming me or other players directly, go for it. Have fun. That’s all any of us go to a paintball field in the first place for, isn’t it? So don’t let yourself be influenced too much by others’ opinions, and don’t try to be too opinionated about what others do. Let’s just all have fun.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End of an Era?

Paintball, once the fastest growing extreme sport in North America, seems to be heading the other direction, and gaining momentum.

Word on the streets is that Smart Parts laid off its last employees. Once a powerhouse in the paintball industry, now is history. JT recently closed its paint manufacturing plant in Neosho, Missouri. Walmart is rumored to be eliminating paintball from it’s shelves (most likely one of the main reasons for the JT plant shut down). Leagues have been seeing less and less attendance. The number of pro teams is down and will be down further this year, by most indications. I have heard of more fields and stores shutting down in the past year than ever before.

How will this affect the rest of us in the industry? Time will tell. Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball. Did I predict, several years ago, that the industry would waiver at some point if it continued down the path it was on? Sure, but so did others. Apparently the people running big industry did not see it coming. Either that or their efforts were not enough to alter the course. Do I feel sorry for them? Yeah. A bit. The industry downturn was not the fault of any one entity. Stopping it or turning the downturn around is also very difficult of any one, or even a conglomerate of entities.

Did the downturn in the economy have anything to do with this? Sure, but not as much as most people think. Our field had a great year and I know of several other field owners I have been in contact with that have also had good years. Sales have not dropped off for everyone.

So what’s up? Is this the beginning of the end for our beloved sport? Will paintball be nowhere to be seen after a few more faltering years? Is this a Doomsday Report? No, I don’t think so. Paintball is going through a correction period, the way I see it. We, as an industry, made some poor decisions and took some wrong turns. They didn’t seem like bad decisions at the time. Obviously! Otherwise, why would anyone have made them? Nevertheless, poor decisions they were. Hindsight has 20/20 vision though, right? Now we’ll be able to go back and make the correct turns.

Actually, I’m not all that sure about that. I still think most in the industry, maybe even the biggest decision makers in the industry, have very little clue about why we are in the position we are in today. I know most field and store owners have no clue. Am I worried? Not for myself or our little field. As long as I can get paint, replenish our rental markers and masks, we’ll keep plodding along. It’s every man for himself (don’t take that too seriously. It’s not like I’m not beating the drum).

Paintball will remain. Will it ever flourish like it has? I don’t know. I do believe the current industry wide closures that seem to be taking place mark the end of an era. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see if the next era will be as strong, or possibly stronger.